Sunday, November 17, 2013

OK, OK, I know

Greeting, loyal readers, and a special hello to a visitor from East Africa. Whatever he or she thinks is going on here, I have no idea, but that's multiculturalism for you.

OK, so where have I been? Well, as Mac once (more than once, actually) said, I've been here, I've been there but, as that woman said, I've never been to me. I'm shut in the winter, anyway. Speaking of winter, some bastard across the canal is setting off fireworks. It's the 17th of November.

I was out on Bonfire Night proper enduring another rehearsal for the the forthcoming Christmas Concert. Yes, I'm still in it, and yes, it's that time of year again. It's time to bookmark the Met Office 5-day forecast page and look at it every few hours with trepidation. The concert is on Thursday 5 December, and dire warnings of a whiteout have been promised by the shit rags. You know what we say in showbusiness? The show must go on.

Other than that, I'm still playing the ukulele on a Monday, and going out when I get the chance i.e. frequently. The ironing has been piling up since the middle of September and there are books and musical instruments all over the floor. If I were a business, I'd be calling in a troubleshooter. At least my diary is emptying in time for the festive season. Just as well I have no friends to invite me out.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Kangaroo Court

I've been suspended from Twitter for the second time in two days. This time, I decided to challenge it. That would explain why I've not been allowed back on!

I've not been doing much recently. Well, nothing I can tell you about. My life, such as it is, is not very exciting. I just seem to spend all my spare time ranting at politicians on Twitter and posting cat pictures on Facebook. With the football and concert seasons ended, I'm in that limbo called Summer. We have had some sun this year, honestly, and I've had one or two symptoms of hay fever, so it must be that season between Spring and Autumn. I'm due to go on holiday, too, in a couple of weeks. I've boughg a silly hat and some new t-shirts, so here's hoping I get to wear them.

Another sign that summer is here is that Wimbledon has happened, and what a tournament it turned out to be. Most of the big names went out in the first week, either through defeat or injury, leaving the World No.1 and No.2 to come through their respective halves of the draw. If you haven't heard already, 'Britain' won, for the first time since the 1930s. What I mean is that a British male tennis player won for the first time in 77 years. What's more, he's Scottish. Cue Mr. and Mrs. Salmond waving a saltire behind Caneron's head. Priceless. Well done, Andy Murray.

Friday, April 05, 2013

It was only a winter's tale

I’m Technical middle class, so says the BBC class survey. I suppose what that means is that I can sit typing on my laptop as my iPad plays last Saturday’s Jazz Record Requests whilst my Freeview HD recorder records Coronation Street. I suppose it also means that I can disappear to another city for the day to have lunch and spend ludicrous amounts of money on frivolous items like a silent violin and a reversible hat. That’s how I spent my Good Friday, and it WAS good.

I’ve not had much leave from work since the start of the year; a half-day here and there, but only one of them memorable. It’s almost an annual event, going to a BBC SSO Afternoon Performance, but I’d never gone while deaf in one ear. It was a funny old afternoon, and not in a good way. The Spring Equinox had come and gone, yet Glasgow was still in the grip of freezing temperatures. My mad dash to the City Halls had tired me out, and it was all I could do to stay upright in my seat. Cold, tired and deaf, I headed home instead of attending the monthly meeting of the Astronomical Society of Glasgow. I can’t remember what the talk was about, but that’s for the best. I hate to think that my getting very old all of a sudden had caused me to miss something interesting.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, I was supposed to have gone to a concert by the RSNO on the Saturday, and gone to learn to play a couple of fiddle tunes on the Sunday night, but I really wasn’t in the mood. To make matters worse, I should have gone on the Wednesday night to the Philosophical Society to see Lord Rees, the Astronomer Royal. What a wimp! A four-day weekend was on the horizon, and I had to conserve my energy for all the fun I was bound to have.

Edinburgh was cold, but brighter than at the New Year, when I had last visited. I started off at a musical instrument shop then I headed for Blackwell’s book shop, where I bought a book about learning Gaelic. On the bus back to Princes Street, I got talking to an elderly lady who was originally from County Monaghan. She had apologised to me for coughing, reassuring me that she did not have the cold. How nice to meet someone who cared. After this, I had lunch, the traditional steak pie, then did some more shopping, before getting back on the train home. I had taken the iPad with me on its first outing, but hadn’t encountered a train with WiFi all day!

Saturday was filled with domestic chores, before the resumption of Doctor Who finally got me to stop working. All that exertion meant that I couldn’t get out of bed on Sunday for ages, and when I did, I had to go to a football match. On my return I made a casserole, and some soup with the leftover vegetables (all best consumed within a day of creation, trust me). I was so tired I could barely move.

On Monday, I went to Kelvingrove Park to try out my new lens, and it appeared to work. After that, I headed up to Byres Road for pizza in Little Italy, and topped lunch off with an obscene amount of ice-cream in Nardinis. The food had gone to my head, because half an hour later, I was on the top deck of an open-top city tour bus. By the time my feet touched the ground again some two and a half hours later I was frozen solid. It took all night to thaw out.

On Tuesday evening, on the way to the orchestra, I tried to eat in O’Neil’s, but its kitchen was closed because of a new menu. A feeble excuse, I thought, so I went across the road to Blackfriars, and had steak in a peppercorn sauce. Not bad, actually, but I never touched the salad. And so to today, Friday, and the delayed arrival of British Sea Power’s latest album, Machineries of Joy. After the disaster that was Valhalla Dancehall, I didn’t hold out much hope for their latest offering however, on first listen, it’s not too bad.

Back to Edinburgh tomorrow, this time for some Shakespeare; The Winter’s Tale. How appropriate!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The luck of the Irish

Top of the mornin’ to ya. Isn’t that what the Irish say? It’s St. Patrick’s Day, or as it seems to have become, Paddy’s Day. As I’ve probably said somewhere else on this blog, I’m not Irish, so I’m not celebrating it. I don’t even celebrate St. Andrew’s Day on 30 November, but if I were to be given paid leave from work, I’d take it. The closest Monday to Paddy’s Day is a holiday in Ireland, which is probably a good idea. There will be a few sore heads tomorrow, and I’d not begrudge anyone in austerity-hit Ireland the chance of a party. We need a revolution, however, and a bloody one, at that.

In a few weeks time, the NHS in England will, effectively, cease to exist, changes will be made throughout the UK to benefits and the ignominious ‘bedroom tax’ will come into law. The Liberal Democrats maintain that they are a moderating influence on the Tories, so Christ knows what would be visited on the poor, the old, the sick, the unemployed and the otherwise disadvantaged without them. Well, the United Kingdom, or what could be left of it, will find out in 2015. We in Scotland have an opportunity to make a better nation and I, for one, will never forgive anyone who doesn’t take that chance in 2014.

While I still have a job and some money I can indulge in some of my hobbies and on Sunday 10 March, I plucked up the courage to go along to Curlers’ Bar in Byres Road for the GFW Very Slow Session. My enthusiasm can be measured by the fact that it had been snowing heavily! My ability, however, didn’t match that enthusiasm, and I struggled through all of the sets. If practice makes perfect, I will have to do a lot of practicing.

On Monday, I went to Stow College for the Ukulele class and returned to my car to find a parking ticket on my windscreen. It was my fault. That street never used to have restrictions after 6pm, so I didn't think to look for a huge sign that I didn’t see in the street with no lights. What pissed me off was that those bloodsucking bastards were out putting tickets on cars at 9pm on a Monday in an obscure street that was far from busy. I will take more care in future, and will also never pay to park in this city again. This could mean that I may have to return home instead of attending an event. 

I’ve been at home in the evenings ever since. I was meant to be at concerts last night and tonight, but I’ve been sitting out in the cold at football matches and it’s too much effort to come home and change into more respectable clothing. I’ve obviously got so much money that I can throw away tickets worth £18.50.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Here, there and everywhere

Ok, so where the hell have I been? Well, I’m not going to tell you. What I will say is this; here are a few developments since I last addressed you, my dear readers:

Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime

Some bastard robot deposited a load of shite on one of my posts. I’m afraid I will now have to verify all comments. The keen-eyed among you will know that this won’t be an onerous task. I have also added the dreaded Captcha, I hope. Sorry. The minority have always got to spoil it for the majority.

Chaos theory
It appears that I am out every night at the moment. Well, I’m obviously in tonight writing this rubbish. It’s been a fairly hectic ten weeks or so, starting with the Celtic Connections festival in the second half of January. That cost me over £200, and I had lots of other concerts to attend over that period, too. February seemed to fly in, but there was plenty to go to then too. Sorry if I’m being vague, but my phone crashed and I lost, among other things, my diary. I have no idea what I did before the 9th of February.

Your life as you know it is over

I now have reading glasses. I am officially old. I am also letting myself in for sitting on spectacles, as I have more pairs than sense.

It’s fun to stay at the YMCA

During Celtic Connections, I attended two workshops: I saw The Big Slow Session, led by the wonderful Nigel Gatherer, as an opportunity to let my fiddle out of its case for the first time since June last year. I felt that I didn’t do too badly, as Nigel led us through two tunes I’d never played before (West Kilbride and Little Diamond) in the company of fiddles, mandolins, guitars, keyboards, bohdrans, whistles, and probably many, many more. It’s made me want to play again, and it’s my intention to sign up in the summer for the Glasgow Fiddle Workshop. I didn’t start back in January because I had already booked some events for Wednesdays, and unlike in the olden days of the GFW, I’d lose money by missing the classes.

Not content with an afternoon of playing, I also attended a workshop in the morning with the equally wonderful Finlay Allison, where I learned to strum along to YMCA on the ukulele. Classes are on a Monday, so I had no excuse for not going along, and since then, I’ve been to four classes, and I’m having a whale of a time. We’re stuck in C Major at the moment, learning lots of pop and country songs, but perhaps after Easter, we’ll move to D or A to play some Scottish traditional music. I find that it’s great therapy, and for two hours on a Monday, I can escape from all the troubles of the world, except sore fingers. I’ve already identified that I need a better instrument, as the action on this one could be lower, and geared machine heads would help it to stay in tune longer. Fun, eh? I’ll slap anyone who mentions G***** F*****, though. 

What's next?

As a result of this, I took my fiddle two weeks ago to one of Finlay’s classes to learn to play tunes in pub sessions. I hope to do that tomorrow night.

and finally

I’m still playing clarinet in an orchestra, but I don’t know for how much longer.

Right, that’s enough for now.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Out with the old, in with the new

What have I been up to since I was last here? Well, in between all sorts of other business in town on the Thursday morning, I had visited John Lewis and some shoe shops, but no sensible bargains had been unearthed (perhaps because I was two hours late?). On Friday, I travelled from the M&S Outlet in the East, where I got the elusive pair of dark blue jeans, west to their so-called flagship store in Braehead in search of that nice grey cardigan I had spotted in the sale in Argyle St. Success! On Saturday morning in town, I finally got a pair of black shoes, so the shopping quest had come to an end.  Just as well; I had all but run out of money.

I don’t actually remember Sunday. I didn’t go out, at least I don’t think I did. Monday, or Hogmanay, was more memorable. After an errand in town, I went for a walk by the River Clyde for about two hours. I had had a mad idea to cross the various bridges between Kings Bridge, at Glasgow Green, and the Millennium Bridge, at Pacific Quay. Due to sore feet and a cold wind, and a detour into the park itself to attempt to identify a large number of birds which I had seen moving between trees, I only made it as far as the Tradeston Bridge, known colloquially as the Squiggly Bridge, around a mile and a half to the west. It would have been a perfect afternoon if those birds had been Waxwings, but they were (only) Song Thrush (and possibly Fieldfare and Redwing). They led me a merry dance in the saturated ground between the trees, and I must have looked like an idiot wandering around looking up at them; an idiot that never takes binoculars out on a walk.

Ne’erday, as they call it here, was a time for reflection and the deep sadness I have recently come to know as my permanent companion. I needed to keep busy, so what better way than to spend eight hours trying to tidy away vast quantities of rubbish that I had allowed to build up since last Easter. Ok, it wasn’t all rubbish, but most of it should have been thrown out or shredded months ago. At the end of this thankless task, I was so tired that I had little energy left to be anything beyond melancholy.

That brings me to my review of 2012. If I look back at my words from a year ago today, I am amused to see that I still had a sense of humour. In three hundred and sixty-six days (or fewer) the poles appear to have been realigned. Yin-yang? Symmetry? Fucking waste of time and energy. Let’s take a look at how the rest of the year went:

Lose weight: This depends on the next resolution. (20/80)
Believe it or not, I succeeded in losing some weight, but only accidentally, due to illness. Must try harder.

Eat less: I don’t eat much, but what I do eat is wrong. Constant comfort eating of industrial quantities of biscuits and cakes is not a good idea. (50/50)
I’d say that I ate more, much more, and of the wrong things. Try again in 2013?

Go to the gym: There are other ways to get exercise, but paying gym membership and not going is, in these austere times, downright stupid. Would I have gone over the holidays had the place been open? Now, there’s another question. (50/50).
I have not set foot inside the gym in the last year. I don’t really count the three months between January and April, as I was ill (as I said before), but I’ve been too lazy the rest of the time. It has been open this Christmas holiday (except on Public Holidays), but I’ve not attended. Try again next year.

Drink less: Less than the quantity I drink already? I probably drink less in an entire year than the average Glaswegian drinks in an hour on a Friday night. Anyway, I might need to develop an alcohol addiction if I’m off the biscuits. (No chance)
I may have consumed a few more units this year. Literally. Oh, dear. 

Work harder: In work? I think not. (No chance)
Hah, no. 10/10

Write more: Of this? Probably. What do you mean ‘this doesn’t count’? (50/50)
I did, until I gave up on life. Pity. I thought I was getting good at it.

Read more: This might help with a number of the above (particularly the number 6). (20/80)
Mmm. Anyone want to give me about £400 so I can get my dyslexia diagnosed once and for all?

Travel more: Money, time and the ability to slip off the chains; three things I rarely have at the same time. I had a mad idea earlier about visiting places beginning with the letter ‘B’. Does that mean I can’t go back to Llandudno? (40/60)
Now here’s a funny thing; I DID travel more. I went on EIGHT trips, and vistited quite a number of places, and some of those places begin with the letter ‘B’. Where did I go, I hear you say?
  • Edinburgh Zoo, where I saw the Pandas, and some other animals, obviously.
  • London, where I visited the Churchill War Rooms, at last, and saw some pelicans in the park
  • Brighton, where I ate ice-cream on a deceptively cold day; went round and round on a big wheel; went on an electric railway; visited the Royal Pavilion, at last; saw a wonderful play called Anne Boleyn, and saw British Sea Power play all of their almost perfect first album.
  • London, again, where I went to the Science Museum, and had to leave early during a concert at Cadogan Hall by the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain because their conductor was talking too much and the show was in danger of overrunning!
  • Morecambe, where I ate a snack on a beautiful evening by the bay as a biting wind threatened to cut me in two and, a couple of days later, I headed to the RSPB reserve at Leighton Moss, near Carnforth.
  • Lytham St. Anne’s, where I saw the remains of their pier, and an absolutely enormous beach, neither of which I had seen in 2002, as it had been raining heavily. I also saw a statue in memory of Les Dawson. Kickers, knackers, knockers, indeed.
  • Blackpool, where I discovered that, if you want to park along the front, it will cost you £7 for the day, in coins, and that the new trams are nice, if lacking in charm. On the return journey to Morecambe that Sunday night, I nearly came off the road when I was startled by a male Sparrowhawk which had just flown over the car.
  • Pitlochry, where I attended performances of Rope and The 39 Steps on consecutive nights at the Festival Theatre, I rediscovered my disdain for Scottish (hotel) hospitality and saw an Oystercatcher on the roof of a building.
  • Blairgowrie, where I realised that I should be more careful where I stay on Saturday nights, as a four-hour disco directly under my room is not conducive to a good night’s sleep, and that the Red Squirrels at Loch of the Lowes nature reserve are alone worth the subscription to the Scottish Wildlife Trust. I also saw another Oystercatcher nesting on a roof.
  • Birnam and Dunkeld, where I bought a scarf, watched a cat wash itself in the grounds of the Cathedral, and made a promise (to myself, of course) to go back for a weekend in 2013.
  • Crieff, where I had roast lamb for lunch, and discovered that, in common with other Perthshire towns and villages at the Jubilee Weekend, an SNP-held constituency does not guarantee the presence of a Saltire.
  • RSPB Loch Leven, where I saw Swallows sitting on fences, for a change, and saw huge black clouds that were going to scupper any chances of my seeing the Transit of Venus the next morning.
  • London, again, where I returned to the Science Museum to see the Alan Turning exhibition then almost lost my jacket and money in the Universe of Sound exhibit, before seeing an amazing 3D film about repairing the Space Shuttle. Later that evening, I saw the John Wilson Orchestra and a stellar cast perform My Fair Lady at the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall. On Sunday, I went shopping in Oxford Street, before going to a lunchtime concert at Wigmore Hall, then west to Acton for some jazz, then back to Oxford Street then back to Wigmore Hall. Phew. No wonder I slept for most of the coach journey home.
  • The Falkirk Wheel and the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway, the former for the first time since it had opened ten years previously!
  • Clydebank, where I went up the Titan Crane, at last.
  • Llandudno and Conwy as usual, plus Chester and a trip on the Blaenau Ffestiniog Railway to Porthmadog for lunch on my 50th birthday
  • Edinburgh, where I attended a gig at the Jazz Festival on my way back from Wales to Glasgow
  • Edinburgh, again, on two consecutive Saturday evenings, once for the Janacek opera The Makropulos Case, and once for a concert by the LSO.
  • London, yet again, where I went to, in no particular order, the Victoria and Albert Museum; the Science Museum, for a last look at Universe of Sound; The National Theatre, to see George Bernard Shaw’s The Doctor’s Dilemma; the wibbly-wobbly Millennium Bridge, at last; the Imperial War Museum; up and round and round on a big twirly thing on the South Bank; The National Gallery; The Royal Albert Hall, again, for John Wilson’s Broadway Prom; the Natural History Museum. I flew back from London City Airport. Most convenient.
  • Stratford-Upon-Avon, where I saw Twelfth Night (minus the first 19 minutes), The Tempest and The Comedy of Errors, which could describe my journeys there and back.
  • Lytham St, Anne’s, again, where I got rained on,  and ripped off in a B&B with ideas above its station
  • Blackpool, again, where I really got rained on, but not before I’d gone on the log flume and the twirly thing I’d been too scared to try in April. I also went to watch dancers in the Tower Ballroom, and saw the Circus. Ten years after my first trip to the Illuminations, I had returned for their 100th. On my way home, I went to Martin Mere, where I joined the WWT, and was nearly savaged by two Australian Shelducks.
That was the end of that. Back to the resolutions:

Be nice to people: In the last five years, I seem to have mastered the art of being nice to people I don’t even like. Even though I don’t mean it, I hope they appreciate the effort. (50/50)
Even the ones I am (very) nice to don’t give a fuck and treat me like shite. Lesson: people are bastards. Keep away.

Use Twitter less: Well, that’s a new one. I signed up for it a couple of years ago, but it took me until September 2011 to figure out how to use it. It’s great for sending rude messages to politicians or compliments to artistic types. The 140-character limit is a bummer, though. No, I’ll give it while longer before I pass judgement on it. (10/90)
I use it more. I like it.

Go out more: This means gigs, doesn’t it? It’s not as if I go anywhere else. Well, this is a difficult one. I’ve got a bit of a hearing problem (pardon?), due to going to gigs in the past; I want to punch anyone who talks at a gig; I’ve not been up late for years; I don’t want to meet anyone I know; I can’t handle the amount of laundry; too expensive, and so on. Enough excuses? I could be here all night at this rate. (20/80)
I did.

Count to ten.
I didn’t.

Anything else about 2012?
  • Celtic won the league, and by the end of the year, the club still in four tournaments, including in the last 16 of the Champions League. The standout games were the home victories against Barcelona and Spartak Moscow. What an achievement!
  • I played in two more concerts, but am close to giving up playing in the orchestra, as it doesn’t suit my temperament.
  • I got a new car. There was nothing wrong with the old one, but I lost my heart to my new Fiesta.
  • Amy Pond and Rory Williams ‘died’ in Manhattan, and have been replaced by the mysterious and feisty Clara Oswin Oswald. I am really looking forward to the next eight episodes.
  • The Mayan end-of-the-world prediction didn’t come true. Sadly.
What’s coming up this year? Well, with any luck, I will be able to wear most of my recent purchases in the latter half of January, as I have around twenty events in the diary between 17 January and 3 February, inclusive. Most are concerts, and most of the concerts are part of the 20th Anniversary of Glasgow’s world-renowned folk and roots festival, Celtic Connections. I am trying to attend as many gigs as possible around all the other concerts (and other events) during that period to make up for my non-attendance over the last few years. Apart from that, it’ll be the usual quota of concerts and football matches, with the occasional trip away, all on my own, and all empty, hollow and meaningless. Out with the old and in with the new. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Here we go again.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sales of the century

At the end of last month, I bought a shirt and a cardigan. A few days later, I bought another cardigan. Not long after that, I bought two coats. Two of those purchases were at full price; the second cardigan and one of the coats. I have, as yet, not worn that full-price coat, one I had coveted for ages. Yes, my bum looks big in it, as does my belly, but it is nice. I’d just be happy if I could go somewhere that I could wear it. Not long after this, I bought another cardigan. I’ve not worn it, yet.

Prior to Christmas, I thought I’d get a bag to go with the coat I’ve not worn yet. The coat is grey, so I wanted a black bag. In the interim, I acquired yet another reduced-price cardigan, and grey jeans when I wanted dark blue! No, I’ve not worn them, either. I got a bag, eventually, and slightly cheaper than its original price (but more expensive than any other bag I had ever bought), but if I’ve got a coat and a bag, I need to have shoes. The bag is leather, yet I bought a pair of suede ankle boots, just because they were cheap. A few days later, I bought another two coats, one of brown suede and the other blue corduroy. The latter had been on my radar for ages, but never in my size (or never in blue) so I had to have it before it was too late. Sadly, it is even better than the grey one from November, and I have no idea if I will ever go anywhere that I can show it off. I needed a bag to go with that, too, and I found one. Luckily, Christmas came, and the shops were shut.

Well, today is Boxing Day, and that means one thing. Yes, back to the shops. I started off in M&S in Argyle Street, at the back end of the ground floor. I left that area of the shop with a half-price pair of black Chelsea boots, and before I’d left the shop, I got a casual jacket I had liked for weeks but had not wanted to pay funny money for. Next stop, Debenhams, and a lovely little green velvet blazer I couldn’t afford in July and never saw again no matter how many branches I had visited. There was only one in the shop this morning, and it was in my size. It was fate. On my way to the bus stop, I popped into Frasers’ to laugh at people paying hundreds of pounds for handbags then I took the bus up to Sauchiehall Street. First stop here was also M&S, and I left with a smart pair of trousers and yet another bag, but the spending spree came to a juddering halt when I discovered that John Lewis was closed! Oh, no! I’ll have to go back tomorrow.

My clothes collection is limited both by the size of my wardrobe, and the depth of my bank balance, and I have never been interested in fashion. I am also old, and the wrong shape and size. If these impediments weren’t present, I could keep the British economy going single-handedly, but I don’t need to. There are plenty of other women out there who are happy to help. Our brains really are wired that way. We’re all nuts, but nowhere near as nuts as those parents who are happy to send their kids out to the sales to queue up outside Abercrombie and Fitch (whatever the hell that is) to get clothes that make them look like every other teenager in that queue, and like Americans. No thanks.